Soft Skills in Technical Professions
Architects, Engineers and Contractors are known for their technical skills. In 2012, your state probably requires 12 hours of continuing education consisting of classes with a Health, Safety & Welfare (HSW) designation for the Architects and Engineers.
If you read a job advertisement for any of these professions, the technical wish list goes on. It gets interesting though when you consider what the client is looking for beyond the technical result. While your technical skills may get your foot in the door, your people skills are what open most of the doors to come. In my 17 years in the Construction and design industry, my testimonials from clients and consultants have almost always been for soft skills. (Exception: There was that one that briefly mentioned my design skills.)
What soft skills are you looking for? (Partial list from Mindtools)
- Personal accountability.
- The degree of collaboration.
- Interpersonal negotiation skills.
- Conflict resolution.
- People’s adaptability and flexibility.
- Interpersonal communications.
- Creative thinking.
- Coaching and mentoring.
The problem: the importance of these soft skills is often undervalued in predominately male organizations. This combined with reduced training budgets has resulted in less training provided for soft skills.
If you look at different neuroscience studies, you will see results stating that men are competitive, linear thinkers. Some will say that men excel in technical fields (hard skills), but in reality women do too. I’ve heard the comparison that men are like waffles, each task is compartmentalized. Studies have also shown that women tend to lean towards relational, nurturing, collaborative thinking styles (soft skills). Again I have heard the comparison that women are like spaghetti, they are flexible, connecting different ideas together. Is this black and white? No.
Neuroscience aside, stop making excuses. If you aren’t hiring or training a diverse team, then you need to start planning for it to stay competitive.
Results from a couple of studies:
- In late fourth quarter 2012, global staffing company Aquent asked its clients what soft skills they thought were most important. Almost overwhelmingly, clients said they wanted to see candidates with organizational, project management, and communication skills.
- The Center for Creative Leadership did a study which indicated the five most important leadership competencies desired in people entering the workforce today are communication skills, self-motivation, learning agility, self-awareness, and adaptability. Ellen Van Velsor, senior fellow in Research & Innovation, Center for Creative Leadership, also noted that young people today may not be receiving the help they need in terms of training, mentoring, or coaching to become the leaders needed for tomorrow.
As noted above, the technical skills get the foot in the door, but it is the soft skills that make you effective and get you repeat business.
Recommendations for Architects/Engineers/Contractors
- As an individual, review your technical and soft skills? Ask yourself where you could use additional training and then get it.
- As an organization, review the skills within your organization to see where the gaps are. Then put together a plan to start developing the talent within your organization (this is in alignment with your succession planning). This plan will help you look for individuals when you are hiring. If there are critical issues, you can hire outside consultants and coaches.
- Need help with these recommendations, call Yvonne at 210.887.3937.
“Why Soft Skills Matter: Making Sure Your Hard Skills Shine.” MindTools.com. (2013). [Online]. Available from: http://www.mindtools.com/pages/article/newCDV_34.htm [Accessed: April 28, 2013].
Freifeld, Lorri. “Bridging the Skills Gap.” Training Magazine. 04/03/2013 [Online]. Available from: http://www.trainingmag.com/content/bridging-skills-gap [Accessed: April 28, 2013].